WASHINGTON — The federal government will recognize the marriages of all same-sex couples, regardless of where they live, for tax purposes — an expansive decision that will have ripple effects across the nation.
"This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.
As a result of the Revenue Ruling issued Thursday, a same-sex couple in Ohio who married in Massachusetts would be able to file a joint tax return next year the same as any other married couple in Ohio would do.
In a statement announcing the decision on enforcement of tax law after the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Treasury Department announced:
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
"Today's ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve," Lew said.
Regarding the recognition of marriages based on the "place of celebration," as it has been called, the ruling stated:
Under this rule, individuals of the same sex will be considered to be lawfully married under the Code as long as they were married in a state whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex, even if they are domiciled in a state that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. ... Given our increasingly mobile society, it is important to have a uniform rule of recognition that can be applied with certainty by the Service and taxpayers alike for all Federal tax purposes.
The ruling expansively interprets current law, holding that "the terms 'husband and wife,' 'husband,' and 'wife' [found in tax law] include an individual married to a person of the same sex if they were lawfully married in a state whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex, and the term 'marriage' includes such marriages of individuals of the same sex."
The Treasury announcement also states that, generally, refunds can be filed for the prior three years' returns. "As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012," the Treasury statement notes.
The announcement also notes that only marriages — and not civil unions or domestic partnerships — will be recognized by the IRS.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement, "With today's ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation's federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home. These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act."
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, praised the decision.
"This announcement makes today a day of celebration and relief for married same-sex couples all over America. At long last, the IRS will treat them as what they are: married," he said in a statement.
The National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown, however, said in a statement, "The Treasury Department is grossly overstepping its authority. This is a nation of laws. Only Congress has the authority to change the law."